On paper, it would seem the Yankees have a solid pitching rotation.
In reality, New York’s arms’ collective upside far outweighs their overall stability. This year’s pitching free agent class isn’t particularly deep but make no mistake. The Yankees will be looking to add arms.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported that the team is “among the most active” on the pitching market and dropped two big names as potential targets: Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Aaron Nola.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 14, 2023
We’ve heavily discussed Yamamoto before, and most baseball fans have a generally good idea about Nola too. He’s been the Philadelphia Phillies’ unquestioned ace for years and now hits the market at the prime age of 30. Of course the Yankees would love to have one of, maybe even both of these pitchers.
Let’s take a look at the free agent market and see who could join these two on the Yankees’ radar.
Aaron Nola. The veteran righty can easily command a multiyear deal this winter, probably at $20 million a year or more. This despite Nola having a bit of an off 2023, in which he posted a 4.46 ERA and 4.03 FIP in 32 starts. Even so, he was in ace form come the playoffs and had a 2.39 mark in October.
Nola also owns a 3.70 career playoff ERA and has fared fairly well against the AL East. The only real concern is how his pitch selection, namely the signature curveball, will fare in baseball’s hardest-hitting division, not to mention against Yankee Stadium’s short porch.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto. General manager Brian Cashman loves this phenom so much that he skipped celebrating the 1998 World Series team to watch Yamamoto pitch a no-hitter in Japan. If they sign him, the Yankees will have to pay the Orix Buffaloes a posting fee based on the value of the new MLB deal. Yamamoto’s 1.72 career ERA in Japan makes him the best free agent pitcher not named Shohei Ohtani. The Yankees should absolutely prioritize him if they’re serious about adding pitching.
Eduardo Rodriguez. The Yankees know E-Rod well thanks to his six years pitching in Boston. The veteran lefty just opted out of a $77 million deal with the Tigers after going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA last year. Rodriguez turns 31 in April and offers a solid five-pitch mix, even if the metrics imply he overachieved a bit last season.
Is he worth $100 million or more? Probably not, but the Yankees should still take a meeting with Rodriguez. Particularly if his asking price doesn’t expand much beyond such.
Marcus Stroman. Having the Long Island-born Stroman on the Yankees would be exciting for several reasons. He has a swagger about him that the buttoned-up dugout needs. When the Blue Jays traded him to the rival Mets, he was disappointed. Stroman apparently had the Bronx on his mind, not Flushing Meadows.
He’s 32 now, but Stroman’s pitching profile matches the Yankees’ needs. He owns a career groundball rate (GB%) of 56.7% and isn’t prone to giving up home runs. That’s borderline priceless in the AL East and makes Stroman’s recent injury issues worth the risk.
Sonny Gray. Put down the pitchforks and torches and hear me out. Yes, there was indeed a time many moons ago that I critiqued his performance in pinstripes. Fans remember Gray being awful in New York to the tune of a 4.51 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in a season and a half. Not at all the savvy, sneaky control pitcher he was in Oakland.
Well, guess what, fans? Now 34, Gray is an AL Cy Young finalist along Gerrit Cole. He had a 2.79 ERA in Minnesota last season and also led MLB with a 2.84 FIP. Gray also allowed just eight home runs in 184 innings, and has even said he didn’t mind playing in New York. He and then-pitching coach Larry Rothschild just weren’t a good match.
Would a rebuilt reputation and a new face in Matt Blake be enough to sign on for a second tour in New York? We’ll soon find out.